CARY — Zack Schilawski knows most people judge forwards like him based on how often they score. But Schilawski has never been the typical forward.
The Cary High product, now playing in his third season for his hometown Carolina RailHawks, has always excelled at things unnoticed: his work rate, possession, passing and willingness to defend.
But the scoring droughts of last season began to weigh on the forward, now enjoying a torrid start to the season. The RailHawks are tied for the North American Soccer League lead with three goals in three games.
“It’s really never been my approach, for better or worse, to judge myself based on scoring goals,” said Schilawski, who helped lead Wake Forest to the 2007 NCAA championship. “I’ve had plenty of games where I didn’t score and thought I played well and helped the team win where I didn’t score. I’ve had games where I scored and looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘That wasn’t my best game.’ ”
Also enjoying this year’s success is his coach Colin Clarke, who has stuck with him even when he slumped.
“Zack had chances last year. He worked his socks off just as he always does, and it just wasn’t going for him,” Clarke said.
In his first year in Carolina, Schilawski netted five goals in all competitions. Last year it was down to three – one came against an amateur team in the U.S. Open Cup, the other two in a 5-2 blowout.
Finding the back of the net had become a chore, just as it had the year before when he was not retained by the New England Revolution two years after he was the ninth overall pick in the MLS draft.
After a strong first impression in his rookie year of 2010, where he scored a hat trick in his home opener, Schilawski scored just two more goals that year and one in the next.
“For strikers it’s all about belief and confidence, and he’s got his belief and confidence. I’m absolutely delighted for him,” Clarke said.
There’s an old adage that goals beget goals, and there could be something to that.
Schilawski had scored in back-to-back preseason matches leading into the NASL season and scored three goals in the first two games.
“It gets your confidence up. It gets you going if you know that you already have one. The hardest part is getting that first one, and then the rest just come your way,” said teammate Enzo Martinez.
The RailHawks (1-1-1) enter Saturday’s game against the defending NASL champion New York Cosmos and hope Schilawski can extend his hot streak.
“I’m certainly enjoying it,” Schilawski said.